The Problem of Evil

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Studies in the Philosophy
of Religion
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
"God is the omnipotent and wholly good creator of all things" "There is evil in the world"
a) EXPLAIN THESE TWO STATEMENTS AND SHOW WHY THEY ARE SAID TO BE CONTRADICTORY (20) The problem of evil is usually seen as the problem of how the existence of God can be reconciled with the existence of evil in the world. It's regarded as a logical problem, because it is based on the apparent contradiction involved in holding onto three incompatible beliefs. This being that God is omnipotent, that God is wholly good and that evil exists in the world. The fact that evil exists in the world constitutes the most common objection to the belief in the existence of the omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and all loving God of Classical Theism. Classical Theism is the traditional understanding of God as worshipped by Christians, Jews and Muslims. This definition is initially criticised, for being culture-bound, as other religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism don't believe in one God so can't be applied to their respective religions. Therefore the problem of evil is only a problem for followers of a theistic religion. God is described as an infinite, self-existent, incorporeal (without body), eternal, immutable (doesn't change), impassable (incapable of suffering), simple (one entity), perfect (God is seen as a morally perfect being i.e. wholly good), omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful) being. Omnipotence means being able to bring about anything which it is logically possible to bring about. However not being able to bring about that which is logically impossible is not a restriction on omnipotence since the logically impossible is not a characterisation of anything. It is a non-thing. Evil is said to come from the free actions of human beings. God can't do what's logically impossible and it's said to be logically impossible for God to create humans who are free but always choose to do what's right. This therefore takes the responsibility of evil from God. Omniscience means knowing everything that it is logically possible to know. If God knows everything it is not possible for him to think of something he does not know. This raises the question of whether God knows every little fact; does he know what you're thinking or what you're going to do? If so then if he's omnipotent shouldn't he be able to stop people doing bad things, as this isn't logically impossible? An argument in response of this is that if God intervened it would result in the individual not being free, something human beings are supposed to be. God is said to be wholly good; a morally perfect being. This is difficult to define briefly as there are differing accounts of what morality and goodness are. It's easier to pick up a general negative requirement of moral goodness. A being that is morally good shouldn't inflict unnecessary suffering or allow others to inflict unnecessary suffering which the agent had the power to prevent. According to this criterion is God good? Stories in the Bible suggest not, for example the great flood. God is supposed to have killed all human beings except a select few and all but two of each animal on the planet. This can't be the action of a morally perfect being. If he was all-powerful, which he supposedly demonstrated through this great flood, couldn't he have stopped the bad things happening? Wouldn't it be kinder to take away the human race's free will, and prevent further problems then killing them all? Other stories such as that of Abraham follow a similar line. God asked Abraham to sacrifice his baby son as a test to determine Abraham's loyalty to God. Would a morally perfect being choose to test a person in such a way? It's wrong to show your authority in such a way and why would God, a supposedly perfect moral being, want his creation to love him more then they love their own? Doesn't he want what's best...
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